Van upgrades

Before we hit the road this time we had big plans for making our space a little more live-able and homey, and we thought we would share some of the upgrades we made!

First of all, one of the most simple but most impactful changes for us was adjusting our ceiling. If you read our post, Overcoming our Ceiling Challenge, you already know that we were waking up staring up at blank silver insulation every day, which felt very unfinished, and a little creepy. After much trial and error, we found the miracle that is Peel and stick wallpaper. This was a game-changer, and now our ceiling is finished, and gives us something interesting to look at.

The next thing we did was add an additional cabinet on the side of the van opposite the sliding door. We already had one that we picked up on the road, and we decided to add another and also create some counter space. The cabinet we found in my parent’s basement (thanks mom and dad!), and we purchased a piece of plywood to use as the countertop. I spray painted the new cabinet, and when we took a look at the plywood, it seemed unfinished so we decided to add some final touches.

At first I was planning to use the remaining wallpaper from the ceiling to cover the countertop, but we wanted something waterproof; our cheapest and best option turned out to be vinyl floor tile (the one we got came from Home Depot, but we found this one on Amazon that is very similar if you’re looking for an affordable option). The one we chose gives our countertop a granite-esque feel, and makes a lot of sense for our space. The two cabinets didn’t line up perfectly, so we made a diagonal cut and then cut each individual tile to fit against the edge of the plywood counter.

Underneath the counter, we installed our Banana hammock, aka hanging fruit basket. If you have a van, or even if you don’t, I highly recommend one of these! It keeps our fruit from getting smashed against the side of the van while we drive, and makes it easily accessible all the time. We knew we would place it in between the two cabinets, so when we installed the second one, we measured them so that the hammock would fit against each one. We then put in a small screw on either side through each cabinet so that it would stay put.

Speaking of cabinets, our friend Pat hooked us up with an amazing cabinet/extra storage space above the cab of the van. With a few 2×4’s and some plywood, Pat created a ton of extra storage for us in a few hours, which would have taken us a few days to figure out. He even included a small switch in the middle of the two doors to keep them closed while we drive. We now use the cabinet for extra blankets and cold weather clothes.

We also updated our sink drainage system by eliminating our waste water tank. While on this trip, we’ve tried to make a lot of changes as far as using products that are environmentally friendly, and want to be sure that we leave as small a footprint as possible. By switching to soap and even toothpaste that is biodegradable, we were able to safely eliminate our waste water tank and let our sink drain outside the van. Even so, we try to do dishes in a parking lot rather than while we’re camping.

It was a little tricky to configure this system because we purchased our sink on Craigslist and didn’t have specific parts for the drain, but we found creative solution by using a Rinse-roo hose, which is actually a hose made for washing your dog. The end is flexible, so we could simply wrap it around the drainage piece under the sink and allow the hose to run out the sliding door. Eventually, we’ll drill a hole in the floor where the hose can sit permanently, but for now it drains out the door when the door is open.

It’s not perfect, but now we can carry an extra 7 gallons of water along with us everywhere we go!

Finally, another one of the most crucial updates we made was a new stereo system (if you know us, this is a big deal)! When we purchased our van, the speakers were blown and we were using a Bose speaker as our sound system, but Dan found a cheap-but-nice Bluetooth system on Amazon, which has completely changed our music situation. The unit comes with a backup camera, which is huge for us in such a large vehicle. This was a great option for us, because it was affordable and not a name brand, and it does everything we need. We also got some new Speakers, which were easy to install and replaced the blown ones we had.

There will be more coming in the future, but for now, these updates have made our home on wheels so much more comfortable! If you want to start a conversation about vanlife, or have any questions about anything we’ve done, please reach out! Also please note that we’re newbies not experts, so everything we share with you is what has worked for us, not necessarily what is the best for everyone 🙂 Thanks for reading!

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